Do you often relate just to the ways teens present in the classroom and forget that what goes on in their personal reflection may be much deeper? Teens present in all their awkward ways, they are in a growth stage and sometimes it feels like their bodies don't quite fit their minds and emotions or vice versa. Remember, there may be much more going on under the surface that is significant and should be acknowledged. In this episode Amy Edelstein shares some subtle insights into the nature of thought and awareness that a student had after just two lessons. She also shares a much more troubling experience a teen in the very same class was having. Insight and gun violence can affect teens sitting within 5 feet of one another. This podcast explores how we can tend to it all.
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Breakthrough Insights Can Come Quickly - Classroom Highs and Lows
how mindfulness can support students to deepen and grow and to heal and rest
Hello, welcome to the conscious classroom podcast. My name is Amy Edelstein. I'm your host. And today we are going to talk about and unpack and explore the value of teaching contemplative practices within under-resourced schools in the middle of inner city. Poverty violence and cynicism. This is a hard time for everyone, almost that I know.
And particularly in the schools we're seeing senior-itis kicking in, in November. We're seeing freshmen, not really knowing what they're supposed to do in high school. Cause the really rising seventh graders, they didn't have the structure of in school learning. The tendency can be to want to teach these students in a remedial way.
They definitely need more structure, framework, stability. And many classes is specially in special needs. And also in the younger grades, students have lost even regular positive grooming habits, hygiene, respectful communication, and understanding of what it is to respond in the moment because when they were able to turn the cameras off, they didn't often respond.
When they were asked to, so there are remedial skills that definitely need to be developed, but I firmly believe in it's one of the foundational tenants or principles of the conscious classroom and the inner strength system that I've developed to, to facilitate the emergence of students' higher potential.
Is to teach to that part of the student that is always aware and awake and curious, and open to learning, to teach to that part of the student. That's not damaged by the surroundings and the harshness, because when that part of the student comes alive, It gives them from the inside out the resilience and the sense of possibility, the ability to work with the people around them to make new friends, to overcome insecurity, overcome social anxiety, to reach out to trusted adults, to source new trusted adults in an uncertain lands.
It gives them the tools to become involved in their mind and emotions with positivity, with curiosity, with growth and development. And that's, what's going to create the momentum to move out of a low grade depression to move out of apathy, to move out of even grief. They allow them to come to terms with loss in their lives.
I want to share a homework assignment that I gave and the response of one student. And I'd like to unpack this student's response as well as to share a second response that would. Describing sort of the polar opposite from the same classroom. So at the top of the student's homework lesson, she writes mindfulness week, two homework assignment reflect on our class.
How would you describe the difference between thoughts and your feeling of being aware? Write two short paragraphs.
So, this is what she wrote. And remember, this is after two lessons, just one classroom period, no, additional supports. This is simply her observation. So she writes awareness is the use of senses when observing a situation. Our census, make us aware of a situation based on our tastes, smell, touch, sight, and hearing thoughts are created about the situation that we're in their ideas and opinions that spontaneously occur in our minds.
They differ based on our mood, notice that they differ based on our. Awareness as immediate as she describes using our senses, thoughts or ideas and opinions that arise out of our awareness of what's happening around us. I know a lot of adults, I wish they would apply that in their own lives. So to continue, she writes reflecting on our class.
I've learned that thoughts and the feeling of being aware may seem like the same thing, but they're actually quite different.
Now this sentence pay close attention to it. This is not something I said in class. This is something that she came up with on her own. After two mindfulness lessons, I would describe the difference between them. Between aware awareness and thoughts by saying that awareness is a fact something that is real, but thoughts are mental events that are only real in our minds.
They don't exist. In reality, we're able to disregard our thoughts and make them non-existent, but we're unable to do the same for awareness. Mindfulness helps us take control of our thoughts. And makes us more aware of our surroundings with the mindfulness exercises we do in class. We're able to experience awareness on a much higher, detailed level than we do on an everyday basis.
So just let that sink in for a moment. This is a regular student in a public high school. In north Philadelphia, it's a school that is beset with all kinds of issues. And it's a school with excellent teachers who are profoundly dedicated and a wide range of students from very different baskets.
If teaching students, simple techniques, like a thought bubble, watching a thought, putting in a bubble, let it float away, learning how, what it means to observe your thoughts in a larger context, to not react to that. To accept it as it is so you can understand it better to calm by watching the breath. If those very simple, basic fundamental techniques can give rise to insight about the difference between the mechanical nature of mind that generates thought and thought comes and goes, it's constructed.
And that quality of awareness or being conscious, which is part of the bedrock of our humanity. This is very profound. So what are the implications? What could be the positive outcomes of this? Well, if we were able. As a culture, as a matter of course, on a regular basis to see thought as ideas and beliefs that arise and pass away
based on our different opinions, reactions, responses, interpretations. Then when we become angry, when we become. When we become vengeful, when we become polarized, we can see that those thoughts are constructed. They're created, they happened, they arise in a particular context because of a particular history or belief system or structure of thought or framework or worldview.
But we can explore different structures, different frameworks, different lenses, different worldviews. We can change how we see and when we change how we see and the framework within which we're interpreting our responses, we can choose to disregard those responses that are divisive ventures. The create suffering or negativity when we can do that, it's powerful.
It's a cultural pause button.
Now, if this 16 or 17 year old was able to do that after 2 45 minute classes, lesson. We would think that our adult population would be able to do the same.
We think that our adult population would be able to retrain ourselves in order to better react and respond and generate a culture that we all want to live in around us.
Now, as I said, there are all kinds of tensions in this school right now. There's conflict between two groups of students from different cultural backgrounds. When I leave the school at the end of the day, there are four police cars outside. With flashing lights and policemen in Bulletproof vests.
This is not an atmosphere that cultivates a student's curiosity or higher potential. That's an atmosphere that encourages students to keep their head down, stay to themselves. And not talk to people. They don't know. Well, because they don't know what's going to happen. So in the same classroom, this was after homework lesson one, where I asked the students to reflect on a time where.
They felt that their thoughts were very distressing or distracting and that they wished that they could come up with a different playlist for their thoughts. Mostly students described anxiousness with public speaking, freezing up on the sports team, psyching themselves out of being able to do well in a job interview.
Normal teenage things all made sense. And then I came to this one student's homework
and I'll change the name of the person. He's the young man he's describing. So this student was. Earlier this week, my good friend, Peter got shot coming out of school and being caught up with the wrong people. This was a tragic moment in time for my friends and I to take in. And it still hurts me to this day that he got shot and is in critical condition.
Peter has fought through three surgeries and has been an absolute superhuman through the process. This tragic event has caused me to be in distress. Peter woke up for the first time two days ago, this is still a very sensitive time because of the condition he's in, but we must pray for him every day.
and as we listen and contemplate this, let's also send this young man whom none of us know, and that's not. His real name, but let's send him our good wishes for a full recovery physically and emotionally. And for all of his friends who are distraught and filled with a distress.
when I read this, of course I shared it with, this young man's regular teacher. So he could check in with him, see how he's doing
in a single class. We have one student who's able to reflect on the subtlety of human consciousness and the interplay between our capacity for awareness and another student who's struggling to manage the unmanageable, struggling to. Work through the thoughts and feelings that arise when one's friends is caught up in irrational and unforgivable violent.
it takes something to let all of this in and to let in where we are as a culture in America and the factors that are contributing to the means and the worldview. That are creating so much conflict.
The fact that any 15 year old can buy a hundred dollar handgun is disturbing, distressing and unconscionable, a don't know long-term cause and effect. They cannot project. Negative consequences and feel it in an emotional way. It's a level of, of development that they're not quite there yet.
Neurologically as smart as they may be
making weapons accessible to youngsters who don't have the built-in capacity. To understand, reflect and control. Strong emotions is a recipe for tragedy and that tragedy doesn't just touch one life. It touches every student's life. Who's connected with them.
The mindfulness that this young man is, is learning in class is helping. We can't erase that event or the ongoing challenges it gives rise to, but because of the opportunity to self-reflect and the opportunity to share those reflections in a safe way, bring support that might otherwise not be available.
It helps this young man process his emotions together with others without having to disclose it allows him to make space for the conflicting feelings. And the sadness and pain and his hope and ability to pray for his friend. This isn't a religious class, that's his own words.
And it allows him to be with himself.
'cause grief takes time to process. We need to give it space and allowing without banishing those thoughts and feelings, but really telescoping out. So they don't consume us. So the way that the mind, the inner strength system, which is both mindfulness, critical thinking systems, thinking social, emotional skills, self-compassion historical understanding evolutionary biology, it's a complex multi-dimensional program.
It's helping this young man understand. The experience he's having now from multiple perspectives, it's helping him hold the tension of those experiences and it's helping him do so with enough anonymity, yet safety in a classroom so that he can experiment being with attending to. And tending to his own heart's needs.
So I bring these two examples to you to show you that within one classroom, four walls, 20 odd students, we can be working with a wide range of experience.
But that experience can be held with these tools of contemplative thinking, contemplative observation, Socratic inquiry, and dialogue, reflective discussion. It's the type of education that challenges without pressure. That fosters a community of diversity, different experiences, different opinions, different observations, while being accepting and loving.
There are many qualities that students absorb in a classroom like this. There are many qualities that they absorb simply by. Hearing different responses from Stu, from their peers, all being held and accepted.
They were allowed to work through their limitations. They're allowed to work through their challenges. And this is what brings them a sense of stability. Support and optimism during these very tricky months and perhaps years that we're in the midst of.
So as we bring this podcast to close, let's do a practice. Allowing our own thoughts to settle down and enlarging the field of our awareness, inviting more into our experience while staying grounded, steady, whole, and filled with self-love so that we can be seated. And embrace what often seems unacceptable.
So come in to your best meditation posture with your spine, tall, your head balanced at the top of your neck,
your body, still your hands rest. Maybe nestled one on top of the other, I gently resting on top of your thighs
or on the arms of the chair. You're sitting in
an inwardly, take a step back, sit down within yourself as if in an easy.
Allow yourself to accept what you're experiencing top to bottom.
Maybe there's physical pain or tension, maybe there's sadness at the condition of the life of someone you care about.
maybe there's joy
at your young child or your furry four legged friend,
maybe there's contentment and a job well done or rest after a long.
Take a deep breath in and a slightly longer exhalation.
Take another deep breath in and a slightly longer. Excellent.
and now let your breath return to normal and allow yourself to sit simply instilling. Letting yourself rest, letting yourself be gently awake and alert.
Allow a small smile
to open up on your face.
Allow the breath. To fan the joy that is also part of the fabric of life,
that joy that's a part of consciousness that bliss, that's a part, a quality of awareness itself, independent of events that come in. I have thoughts that arise and pass away.
Give yourself another minute moment to be still
take a deep breath in and a longer exhalation. Take another deep breath in and a longer XLH. Visualizing as you exhale that you're fanning the embers of your heart, creating a warm glow in your heart, allowing that warmth to spread throughout your chest,
down your arms, into your hands. Throughout your torso down your legs so that your whole body is filled with a soft radiant glow
Now you can allow that imagination go and begin to bring your attention back to the objects in the room around you refocusing your vision.
Scanning your experience, your body from head to toe
noticing any sense of spaciousness, curiosity, a different quality and gentleness and awakeness in your perception.
And we can close our podcast here.